Reynolds Fisher House
by: chicago designslinger
[Reynolds Fisher House (1890) Patton & Fisher, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1889 the City of Chicago and the Village of Hyde Park merged and became one. If you had cut-out a map of the city as it existed back then and placed it over an outline of the borders of the village, the city would have fit snuggly into the boundaries of the village, so in one fell swoop the map of Chicago doubled in size. The oversized village was made-up of a number of small community clusters separated by swatches of open prairie. The area dubbed Kenwood was considered the most fashionable residential section, so when architect Reynolds Fisher decided to build himself a house, he chose the northern edge of the genteel colony as the site for his picturesque shingle-covered dwelling place.
[Reynolds Fisher House, 4734 S. Kimbark Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The picturesque style of architecture evolved over a period of time after a group of mid-18th century artists decided that the formality of Neoclassicism was too confining and tightly wound. A bit of Greek, Gothic or Baroque here and there wasn't bad, but it was out with strict formality and in with asymmetry. Idyllic landscapes portrayed in picturesque paintings and gardens reflected a less formal pastoral ideal, and envisioned architecture and art in a much more romaticized fashion. The movement would later provide inspiration for the works of the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and the painter Thomas Kinkade. The style was also a perfect jumping-off point for Chicago area real estate developers in the late 1880s offering "sublime and beautiful" urban/suburban settings free of the harsh realities of inner city life. A promotional brochure bore the very straight forward and descriptive title, "Picturesque Kenwood."
[Reynolds Fisher House, Hyde Park - Kenwood National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Fisher's house was about as picturesque as you could get at the close of the 19th century, and bore all of the hallmarks of what would eventually come to be known in the U.S. as the Shingle Style. It's hard to imagine today looking at the painted surfaces and asphalt roofing of the house, but when the structure was completed in 1890 the stained wood shingles covering the roof and walls blended much more effortlessly into the natural landscape. Surrounded by other large shingle-surfaced houses set far back from Kimbark Avenue's curb line, Fisher's street was the consummate expression of a picturesque archetype. But he didn't stay here for very long. After a partnership with architect Normand Patton that lasted for 16 years, in 1901 Fisher decided to leave architecture and Chicago behind, move to Seattle, and join his brother William, president of the Pontiac Brick & Tile Company, as the firm's treasurer.